I am sure that none of you have ever heard the story or seen the artwork of Atlas Jones, a black

kid from Philadelphia who was murdered this past January, at the age of only 17. That doesn’t matter, after today, you will never forget.

Shortly after his untimely death, I received a letter from his uncle Robert Anderson, explaining that when Atlas was just 12 years old; he began researching and collecting photographs, books
and documents, for what he called “THE DEEP RIVER ARCHIVE.” It became my job to archive the history and things he left behind. Through reading more of his notebooks what became clear to me is that Atlas never slept, was quiet, soft-spoken and a little weird. Those who knew him were also aware that he sold drugs at night to support his family, and seemed to hold the world on his back; he lived above a funeral home that his mother still owns.

Atlas wanted to be paid in full, and successful like a master at the end of his career. He was young, yes, but completely and seriously obsessed with photographs, ideas, and systems.
These are pictures of the archive. I’ll read you a few excerpts from Atlas’ Journals; these are things I also believe.

“ Making use of my resourcefulness and my poverty, I will dive, rock-head first, into the immeasurable history of my people and in those depths, emerge with only a vision, a fictional situation, and a photograph.” “ I believe in a great and royal concern for my people, I believe in wrestling everything through the darkness of myself. I believe in being misunderstood, or never being understood at all.” “ I believe in living without restriction in a great expanse of time, from the past, I storm into the future and back again. Through the study of history I can always visit ancient Egypt and perform tomb robberies. Through empathy I can succumb tragically to the water hose marching in the Civil Rights Movement. I believe I was a slave crossing tides under moonlight across the Atlantic Ocean. I believe I am the multitude of contradictory Black American Rap Stars.” This is what I truly believe, that although Atlas Jones never existed, he has always been with us here in America. He is Martin Luther King, he is Malcolm X, he is my brother, and he is also a work of art.

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